London Calling

So when I started a new job at the end of last summer it turned out I’d have to spend some time “down south” at our Slough depot in order to improve health and safety (if you didn’t know what I do in my day job, you do now). When I think of Slough I just think of The Office and the town being one huge trading estate; and, it pretty much is. As the organisation grows and I’m having to spend more and more time there, the glamour of a Premier Inn evening meal and breakfast each day was wearing very thin. I looked at what other options were available without giving me a horrendous commute through the capital’s rush hour traffic and the Premier Inn at London Archway gave me so many options. Highgate village up the hill, the tube station next door and an abundance of bus routes meant I could easily find somewhere to find somewhere different to eat and drink each evening.

First thumbs up for London: On the subject of the public transport, Laura keeps getting mad at my love for it. London transport is so easy to navigate. You always pay by card; you just check in and out; and its so regular. The bus even tells you where you are so you don’t need to follow yourself on Google Maps. I can imagine using the tube daily and witnessing it’s flaws could possibly be depressing day-in, day-out so it may just be down to my new found affection for London and that on this occasion it in no way hindered my plans. And, on no occasion did I notice the smell of wee.

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My last visit just so happened to tie in with the opening of the Beer Merchant Tap in Hackney Wick, for which I managed to get a trade ticket for the Wednesday evening. Firstly, it was so easy to find. Stepping off the overground train at Hackney Wick, a tall brick, mill-like building stood out in the distance and I recognised it instantly. Good start. The decor is all brick and light wood with what feels like fridges on every wall full of delicious, chilled bottles and cans. I saw some friendly faces as I entered; introducing myself before grabbing a beer and meeting more friendly faces as they also arrived. Twenty taps adorned the beautifully tiled bar area plus two cask pumps ensuring plenty of choice. There was still some beers on from a Half Acre Tap Takeover the previous weekend but I opted for a Keller Pils from Lost and Grounded followed by Burning Sky’s house beer brewed especially for the venue, Huis; an excellent example of a Belgian pale ale. It was suitably bitter and had enough, but not too much, of that Belgian yeast character expected. In all honesty, I stuck to Huis for my next few beers before I started getting tired and hungry.

Did I not tell you I left the house at 3am? No wonder I’m tired. In this case, Beer Merchant’s cheese and meat platters may have put me to sleep there and then so I headed for a short walk to Five Point Brewery’s Mason and Company. Like many of London’s popular and high-end beer bars and pubs, Mason and Co adopts an independent food trader to satisfy the hunger of their customers; with Capish? taking residency within the kitchen producing Italian inspired sandwiches. Sensibly arriving one hour before the kitchen closed I opted for a chicken parm sandwich and a session IPA from Affinity Brew Co. It was a quiet Wednesday night but I can imagine on a beautiful warm summers day this area by the canal is heaving with revellers throwing back refreshing session beers, indulging in super street food and soaking up the sun.

Thursday saw me spending all day visiting sites, one of which was in SW7: the super expensive and lavish Knightsbridge. After visiting site, I headed off to find somewhere to finish writing up my audit and finally have something to eat. Dinner seemed so long ago but I don’t think my budget would stretch here so thirty minutes on the tube got me to Old Street where I was recommended The Old Fountain. The Old Fountain is a traditional looking backstreet boozer with a handful of handpulls and a solid selection of keg lines adorning the bar. Walking into the pub, you pass the open kitchen on the left serving a selection of tapas-style small plates from which I chose some delicious little chorizo croquettes. I was disappointed that the Five Points XPA had just finished on cask but Tiny Rebel’s Dutty was a suitable substitute. This was a lovely location and accompaniment to typing up my audits.

As time flew by I found little point returning to the hotel so I took the national rail line from Old Street up to Alexandra Palace to visit the highly recommended brewpub, The Prince. Home of the House Brewery who I’d read so much about but never sampled, I was looking forward to sampling it at source. Whenever I go to a new pub on my own I like to sit up at the bar in order to engage with the staff and take in all the goings on; so I popped myself at the end of the bar and ordered half of House Brewery’s Porter. As I mentioned earlier, many beer places have residents in the kitchen and The Prince was no exception. Mei Mei’s Street Cart were serving up Chinese street food packed full of flavour which I ordered with my next beer; a pint of another highly recommended London brewery:  Hammerton, and their N1 American pale ale.

Second thumbs up for London: Now I’m expecting a lynching for what I am about to say. This is my second trip to London. A month earlier I came down but spent most of my time in The Prince’s sister pub, The Duke’s Head, including Burns Night when Fyne Ale’s Jarl was on cask and tasting superb. Now, brace yourself. I have realised I LOVE unsparkled cask, especially in hoppy pales and IPA’s. It gives the beer an oily, resinous feel, drunk smoothly through a light and loose head.

Third thumbs up for London: London is clearly full of very cool people as my choice in colourful and exuberant shirts still received praise. For the second time in as many nights I received some lovely compliments on my shirts and I will grasp them with two hands every time.

My final stop of the evening, after a very cold thirty minute walk; was the group’s third pub, Small Beer, in Crouch End. Where the other two have more of a pub-like feel, Small Beer is a more open, hole-in-the-wall type venue, but still serving a great cask and keg selection. House Brewery’s Bitter and Wylam’s Centennial were shining on cask and another offering of Lost and Grounded Keller Pils was more than welcome. As mentioned, I had previously eaten but when I saw the pizzas coming out of the kitchen I couldn’t resist ordering myself one. The spicy pepperoni tasted good then, and also for breakfast before a six hour plus commute home reminiscing about the warm embrace I’d recently felt in London’s beer scene. Until next time…

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Oh, here is London. Home of the brash, outrageous and free

 

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